Category Archives: Monthly Roundups

“Heh”: May ’22 Roundup

Hee hee, hoo hoo.

On the blog

Our Flag Means Death and the Treasure Hunt for Queer Genre Fiction – as a historical romance and comedy, Flag is playing in a different set of tropes and expectations to a lot of contemporary, realistic queer media, providing new storytlines to explore and reassurance to viewers.

A Pile of YA Novels with Non-binary Protagonists (Part 1) – in celebration of my thesis being ALMOST, ACTUALLY, FOR REALSIES THIS TIME done, here is a post about some of the cool books I read for it! We’ve got fantasy, rom-coms, cabin-in-the-woods horror, and more, all with non-binary heroes leading the way!

On AniFem

Spring 2022 3(ish) Episode Check-in – my impressions of Heroines Run the Show, Recipe for Happiness, and The Executioner and Her Way of Life as they forge ahead and round up their first acts.

Chatty AF Episode 162: Spring 2022 Check-in – aaand my impressions, alongside co-hosts Peter and Caitlin, of this season as it continues to its halfway point!

You can also find me on this month’s Patreon bonus mini-podcast chatting about and reccomending anime-adjacent media! Feat. magical girl shows made outside of Japan, books about girls in mechs, and… wrestling?

Webbed sites

But how do you get that pirate aesthetic? Nicole Rudolph will show you how, walking us through the typical attire of a 1710s gentleman, and making and showing off her own version of Stede’s glorious, decadent robe. She also has a Part 2 where she covers the typical attire of pirates themselves, so be sure to watch both to get the full picture!

A deep dive into Heartstopper and what makes it refreshing, focusing on the fact that it’s a teen show clearly aimed at teens, how it blends realistic depictions with romanticised imagery, it’s quintessential Britishness in a media landscape overwhelmingly driven by Hollywood and its shiny clichés, and how its success perhaps represents a way forward and a new generation of queer media.

Canipa’s industry insights are always super interesting; this one gives us a peek into the unusual co-studio relationship behind Spy x Family and the tricks of the trade they’re embracing to make the series as energetic and emotive as possible!

Asexuality in Manga and More: 2022 Addendum – a roundup of contemporary manga series that include asexual (and/or aromantic) characters and how these stories depict and deal with asexual issues. Coherent Cats’ bibliography of ace manga sure is getting long, and it’s exciting!

The Unexamined Loneliness of Heartstopper‘s Characters of Colour – this uplifting show has a wonderfully diverse main cast, yet Jaime Woo feels the way that their race informs Tao, Elle, and Tara’s social experience isn’t touched on with satisfying depth, leaving a notable gap in the series’ otherwise thorough and empathetic exploration of the problems that marginalised teens can face.

Norman Spotlights: Tamsyn Muir – I just love reading interviews with this author. This one has some really interesting insights about the genre-blending creative process behind Gideon and Harrow the Ninth, the nature of tragedy, Muir’s past fandom shenanigans, and navigating the expectations of being a marginalised writer while not necessarily writing “marginalised books”.

Queer Media, Escapism, and Self-Discovery in Sasaki and Miyano – Anthony Gramuglia on how this romance series opens a very meta conversation about the effects LGBTQIA+ fiction can have on its teenaged readers.

Why ODDTAXI‘s Opening Theme is the Secret Sauce to its Success – Kerine Wint breaks down the symbolism, hidden (or, it turns out, not-so-hidden) foreshadowing, and multi-layered lyrical significance woven into ODDTAXI‘s banger of an OP.

Death Notes on Camp: Repurposing a Classic – Lucas DeRuyter explores the new layers of appreciation that emerge when ostensibly dark and serious detective thriller Death Note is instead viewed through the lens of camp (I am in part responsible for the pun in the title, and that is an editing achievement I’m very proud of).

I’ve been listening to the Heartstopper soundtrack a lot. There are some bops on there, including this one:

And that’s all folks! Take care and I’ll see ya soon.

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The Epic Highs and Lows of High School Golf: April ’22 Roundup

Here goes another month of exciting antics! See what I’ve been up to below…

On AniFem

First impressions season is here again, featuring…

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – a rom-com that unfortunately doesn’t give me much to giggle about.

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls Story – the most intense golfing you’ll see on TV.

Don’t Hurt Me, My Healer! – a silly fantasy comedy where the best character is the bear.

Fanfare of Adolescence – horse boys? Horse boys.

Healer Girl – healing girls? Healing girls.

Thermae Romae Novae – bath time fun in Ancient Rome.

Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs – a stuck-in-a-game isekai with nothing but contempt for the genre it’s apparently parodying.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the team’s reviews, organised here for your convenience!

Anime Feminist Recommendations of Winter 2022 – and don’t forget to look back at the previous season and celebrate the best titles from that!

Around the web

The adaptation of Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper navigates the harsh realities faced by young queer people and comes out as a deeply wholesome and uplifting little love story—and, as James argues, it’s arrived in pop culture at just the right time in history.

Xiran’s take on Pixar’s latest and the conversations around it, ultimately celebrating the movie for its honest depiction of teenage girlhood and the aspects of that experience that end up “taboo” in most media.

Navigating Your Cultures: Himawari House – a heartfelt review of this graphic novel about three young women from different Asian backgrounds rooming together while they study in Tokyo, and what it gets right about cross-cultural communication, fitting-in-but-not-fitting-in, and figuring out where you sit in relation to your heritage and the world around you.

Silly Pirate Show Our Flag Means Death is a Shot Across the Bow of Queerbaiting – depending on where you are in the Internet, it may seem as if everyone was suddenly obsessed with pirates falling in love—and for good reason!

Killing Eve(n When You Should Know Better): The Persistence of the “Bury Your Gays” Trope – what the hell happened in the series finale to Killing Eve, why is everyone so upset about it, and what alternatives are out there for queer storytelling that is tragic while remaining satisfying?

Following the Song: Listening, Learning, and Knowing – Indigenous PhD student Lisa Fuller (remember that great horror novel Ghost Bird? That’s her) talks through the rigid expectations of academia, and how “decolonising the curriculum” is difficult when the whole system of knowledge is rooted in colonial thinking.

The song on repeat this month is this funky, hypnotic little gem:

Take care all—regularly scheduled posts are back in a few days!

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Don’t Say Lazy: March ’22 Roundup

March marches on, and here we are again!

On the blog

The Chaotic Heart and Soul of Eniale & Dewiela – my impressions of this gloriously silly (and sometimes strangely heartfelt) manga about a pair of celestial frenemies.

Watching K-On!! for the First Time in 2022 (and Crying My Eyes Out) – the results of my experimental watchalong of the iconic hobby series, which, as you can see, not only made me laugh but got me right in the coming-of-age feels.

Whose “Universal” Narrative Is It Anyway? – inspired by the recent discussion around recent discussion around Pixar’s Turning Red, I unpack the expectations mainstream audiences and critics have of diverse media and why “universality” is kind of an empty phrase.

On The Anime Herald

The Unwavering Optimism of The Aquatope on White Sand – “do what’s right, and everything will work out”. This is the mantra throughout the whole show, even as it switches from magic and whimsy to storylines more grounded in adult reality.

On Anime Feminist

Kotaro Lives Alone – Episode 1 – whose goddamn freaky child is this?

And don’t forget about Patreon!

You can now access monthly short stories and blog post previews on my shiny new platform. March’s short story was a silly little snippet about the pitfalls of having a house that walks around. Patrons of all tiers also get blog posts a week before everyone else!

Bonus book chats: this month I’ve been enjoying fantasy titles like A Thousand Steps Into Night and The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea, and the queer love quadrangle shenanigans of Ophelia After All.

Webbed sites

I know nothing at all about music or lyric theory, so I love learning about the technicalities of what makes a song bop. As part of a series on the music in Encanto, Howard Ho and co. break down Luisa’s character, her conflict, and how that comes through in the way her catchy solo is put together.

I also know (almost) nothing about the series Euphoria, so Dylan’s perspective on this polarising show is very enlightening. Questions abound in this complicated story: where does one draw the line between “glorifying” drug use and honestly depicting the highs that get people hooked? At what point does a show this stylistic become style over substance? And at what point does prestige drama about the grimy realities young people face become a grim fascination with the trauma of teenagers?

Unsung Heroes: The Women of The Heike Story – cultural historian Claire explains how Yamada Naoko’s most recent series took a famous historical war story and shifted the spotlight onto the often-overlooked stories of the women involved, reframing things to imbue them with the most agency in the whole cast.

We Aren’t Just Watching the Decline of The Oscars, We’re Watching the End of The Movies – maybe the feature film as a medium is sticking around, but The Movies as a cultural touchstone and a source of iconography and prestige are possibly on their way out, for a variety of reasons.

Clothes Make the Guardian: Fashion and Femininity in the Sailor Moon Franchise – as well as contributing to the magical girl series’ themes about the power of girlhood, the casual costume design in the original Sailor Moon does a lot of work towards characterisation and making each girl unique in her expression of feminine (or masculine) identity; something missing from the Crystal reboot with unflattering and unfortunate consequences.

The Battle for Union Anime Dubs – despite anime being such a booming industry in the English-speaking world, English-language voice actors are some of the lowest paid and least supported professionals in the performing arts world.

Love, Agency, and Androids: A Chobits Retrospective – a look back on the CLAMP classic, its themes, and how its fan service camera can get in the way of its storytelling intentions.

And finally, the song on repeat this March! It could be a pretty little mess…

And that’s that for now! It’s premiere review season again tomorrow, so as always, no big blog posts for April (but plenty of anime episode insights). Take care and I’ll see you on the flipside!

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Piece of Cake: February ’22 Roundup

Onwards ever onwards into the eeby deeby.

On the blog

(Re)Telling an Epic: Biwa and The Heike Story – musing about the nature of The Narrator in adaptations of older stories, and getting all emotional about a little biwa-playing soothsayer.

Queer YA Spotlight: The Heartbreak Bakery – craving baked goods whilst recommending this sweet, magical book about playing matchmaker and trying to figure out your own gender recipe.

On AniFem

The Orbital Children – Episode 1 – a sci-fi set in a spacefaring future that feels eerily close.

Delicious Party Pretty Cure – Episode 1 – PreCure is always fun, with the added bonus that this one has some cute food positivity!

Winter 2022 Three-Episode Check-in – giving you the lowdown on how the season of rom-coms and gender-weirdness is progressing!

The Orbital Children‘s Rejection of Ecofascist Ideas – see above summary about how this series feels eerily down to earth despite being set in Earth’s orbit. The good news is, where it draws on very real and prescient politics, it staunchly rejects them and invites the viewer to imagine, and fight for, a better future that everyone gets to be part of.

And don’t forget about Patreon!

You can now access monthly short stories and blog post previews on my shiny new platform. February’s story was a snapshot of a queer road trip; those long country highways the best place for bittersweet conversations and the blush of new love. Patrons of all tiers also get blog posts a week before everyone else!

Fun things to watch on the web

A saga for the ages, Mister Michael’s Microphone breaks down the iconic, messy, and iconically messy Pretty Little Liars in an opera-length series that was, frankly, enthralling. I know so much about this show now, and yet I know nothing. (CW: discussion of fictional age-gap relationships, mentions of torture, wild and out-of-left-field transphobic and homophobic writing decisions on the part of the PLL showrunners)

Raya and the Last Dragon was marketed as “Southeast Asian representation!” so what do actual viewers from SEA have to say about it? Xiran uses their platform to host what is essentially a conference (and I loved that, truly and deeply) on the many odd and off-putting aspects of this movie and the discussion that surrounded it upon its release. Watch all three parts!

While a concept like “fan service” might seem ubiquitous enough that it’s easy to define (and dismiss), there’s a delicate art and science to making characters attractive and appealing, combining efforts from character designers, animators, colourists, scene compositors, directors, and a host of factors. Canipa looks at the technicalities of sexy anime moments (with a nice balance of pretty boys and pretty girls, I might add. Equality!).

The Metamorphosis of the Magical Girl Genre – mahou shoujo series with dark elements aren’t a new invention, but post-Madoka there’s been a market shift that’s worth contextualising. Nina Morales charts the changes in the genre over the past decade, and argues that grim ‘n’ edgy trends aside, it’s not necessarily all bad news.

The Anime You Should Have Been Watching… in Winter 2012 – the influx of seasonal anime can mean fandom is often flash-in-the-pan and gems can get lost and forgotten, especially as years go by. Kevin Cormack looks at the anime that were airing exactly a decade ago, examining some of the series that stand out as emblematic of the era.

Why K-On! Deserved Its Second Chance – a personal musing on the impact of the series that, though no one knew it at the time, would define a genre and launch the career of one of the best-loved anime directors out there.

This Week in Anime: Why Marin is Everyone’s Dress-Up Darling – why is horny cosplay-centred rom-com My Dress-Up Darling one of the most engaging shows this season? Steve and Jean-Karlo break it down, highlighting the earnest and layered characterisation of the two leads and how the show avoids falling into the “nerd girlfriend wish fulfilment” tropes of other series that tackle similar topics.

The song on repeat this month is this atmospheric bop from Chela. Relistening to this constantly is not a bad habit!

And that’s all we wrote! See you soon for more, and take care out there!

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Other Fish in the Sea: January ’22 Roundup

Gang, I think they might be making too much anime. At least it means there’s always something to write about…

On AniFem

Girls Frontline – Episode 1 – gun girls: girls who are guns who also shoot guns!

SLOW LOOP – Episode 1 – unfortunately my review of every new soft, cozy hobby show is “well, it’s not Laid-Back Camp, but…”

Futsal Boys – Episode 1 – these boys sure are playing futsal!

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform – Episode 1 – beautifully animated and storyboarded… and with a weirdly voyeuristic overtone to its detail-oriented depiction of thirteen-year-old girls.

The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt – Episode 1 – in the year of our lord 2022, I am not in the mood for a smarmy rich boy protagonist who uses his royal subjects as pawns.

Find all the reviews by my hard-working co-staffers here! Take a look through and see which ones call to you.

Recommendations from Fall 2021 – with the current season in full swing, let’s take a moment to glance back at the best from the previous one!

Top Picks for 2021 – the staff’s favourite series from a weird, tumultuous year.

Bonus book chats: watch me fall in love with Honey Girl, get swept up in Blanca & Roja, and get dragged along behind the wild ride that is Iron Widow.

And don’t forget about Patreon!

You can now access monthly short stories and blog post previews on my shiny new platform. January’s story, a witchy and whimsical piece of flash fiction, went out mid-month, but normally they’ll drop in the first week—which means February’s isn’t far away, if you want to jump in and check it out!

The World Wide Web

A sitcom so bad it exposed corruption within the awards system, Emily in Paris has somehow returned for a second season—and Monsieur Space Ninja has returned to the scene of the crime to follow up on his previous eloquent critique of the show (also an exceptionally good video). Has Emily improved? Yes and no: the series is clearly responding to its rightful backlash in some ways, but it’s also finding new and exciting ways to be racist and lazily-written.

Golden Girls has been the latest evening comfort watch in my house, so it’s fascinating to learn about its history: this video covers its unlikely origins and, most importantly, its long-lasting resonance with the queer community.

The time loop is a storytelling device and game mechanic that’s at once a power fantasy and a terrifying loss of control. Eloquent as always, Jenna Stoeber digs into the development of this genre and the modern anxieties that are leading to more engagement with it.

An Ode to Tsuritama, a Show That No Longer Exists – in the streaming era, it’s easier than ever to access anime… but easier than ever for shows to vanish into thin air if their license runs out. This post is a melancholy musing on a quirky 2012 show that has functionally ceased to exist, highlighting this weird new world of lost media we’re in.

Disney’s Encanto Isn’t Just About Representation – It’s an Act of Defiance – rather than being set in a fantasy land, Encanto is set in the very real country of Colombia, bucking the Hollywood trends most commonly used to depict the place.

Farewell, My Dear Cramer (Series Review) – a story about how women’s soccer receives little support, resources, or attention, produced by a studio that failed to give it the support, resources, or attention to tell that story well. Oof!

Tamsyn Muir Understood the Assignment: The Locked Tomb Series’ Expansive Exploration of Death and Grieving – what Gideon and Harrow the Ninth get right about the world-altering process of grief, focusing not just on the main plot but on the delicate and matter-of-fact portrayal of loss in the bonus short story ‘As Yet Unsent’.

The song that’s stuck in my head this month is… well, I’d like to present some cool new artsy song, but the reality is it’s the opening number to Encanto. It’s been on loop in my brain for weeks. When will I be free of the magic?

See you soon gang! Take care out there.

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Introducing… Patreon!

You can now follow and support my writing (fiction and non-fiction!) on Patreon!

Welcome to a grand experiment: my shiny new Patreon page, which I intend to use as a hub for my creative efforts and experiments as I surge ever forward into the world of storytelling. If you follow me on this blog, I figure you like my writing, so why not consider signing up? For just a few dollars a month you can offer me some consistent, valuable support, and you can get access to some very fun stuff…

As I start making Career Moves (TM) towards becoming a professional published author, I want to use this platform as a place to play with my creative writing for an interested audience. On this account I want to publish:

  • Short stories and flash fiction
  • Snippets of longer original works 
  • Behind-the-scenes and work-in-progress posts about putting together said longer works—including the novel I’ve written for my PhD

You can write a novel for a PhD? Yes you can! I can also post insights into the process of combining creative work with academia if people will find it useful.

I write about:

  • Playful, atmospheric fantasy settings
  • Queer found families and unexpected tight-knit friendships
  • Coming-of-age stories dealing with healing and agency
  • Tricky trickster gods and other myth-inspired character tropes

If you want a piece of that pie in your inbox every month, consider joining up! The first piece of short fiction—a morning spent with a witch feeding secrets to crows—will be going live in a few days!

While I intend for this to mostly be a hub for my fiction, following me on Patreon will also get you:

  • Sneak peaks at future blog posts
  • Monthly roundup and recommendation posts about what I’ve been enjoying and why you might want to check it (be it a book, a TV series, a game, or whatever) out too!
  • Insights into the freelancing process
  • Insights into the Weird and Wacky World of Academia

I write about:

  • LGBTQIA+ representation in media and the many shapes it can take
  • How stories play with familiar tropes and stereotypes
  • How atmosphere and writing style can make magic happen
  • Interesting and cool narrative tricks I want to highlight and celebrate

If any of that sounds like it’s for you, come on board! I’d be happy to have you. Or, of course, if this isn’t your style, you can always drop me a one-time donation in the digital tip jar that is Ko-Fi.

I deeply appreciate every read, every like, and every cent of support. I look forward to seeing some of you there!

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Twenty-Twenty-Gone: December ’21 Roundup

Here we are, another rotation around the sun. 2021 is done and dusted, and I’m sure many people are glad to see the back of it. As always, for me it’s a little complicated. I had some high highs: I convened a creative writing unit again and got great feedback from my students. I was writing and editing for Anime Feminist and The Anime Herald, which allowed me to work with awesome teams and some really great feature writers. I got a tattoo! I worked on some really fun creative stuff, including revising the novel that forms the major body of my PhD.

There were also some not-so-high highs: the scholarship that kept me afloat for the first three years of that PhD ran out, meaning I was left swimming in the sometimes unforgiving tide of sessional academic work and temporary office contracts. I’ve managed to avoid COVID (touch wood) but I managed to get glandular fever. It’s been a year of being Tired, perpetually, but where the symptoms of that illness end and general exhaustion from workload and the emotional stress of global pandemics etc begins… it’s difficult to say. At my supervisor’s suggestion I took an official semester-long break from my thesis to focus on paid work and general recovery, which turned out to be massively good advice.

I hope the next twelve months are kinder and the world is a less scary place. Do I have plans and goals for 2022? Aside from finishing aforementioned thesis (they’ll start getting cranky with me if I stretch it out much further than these four years) I really don’t know—I’m just going to keep walking on whatever ground ends up beneath my feet and try not to trip or get blisters. I think it’s all I can do, and I’m going to do my best.

If nothing else, you know I’m going to keep writing! So rain or shine, I’ll be here. I hope my words and thoughts can keep bringing people joy and making people think. I wish a safe year to every one of my readers, and am immensely grateful you keep coming back.

So here’s to that—one final roundup of 2021 content, and on we go into whatever the hell comes next!

On the blog

Queer YA Spotlight: The Girl From the Sea – not all of us can turn into seals, but we’re all capable of transformation. Read my review of this sweet supernatural coming out story!

The Best Books I Read in 2021 – a big ol’ pile of reading recommendations, featuring everything from fake dating to portal fantasies to time travel to necromancy (in space).

The Best Anime I Watched in 2021 – a collection of my favourite series from the year, from cosy camping to celestial comedy to anthropomorphic crime drama.

In the Exciting World of Online Academia

Genre-Savvy Protagonists in Queer YA Rom-coms – a short “podcast” recording where I explore coming-of-age stories where the rules of the romantic comedy get broken and put back together in new, queer ways, focusing on Loveless and Meet Cute Diary as examples.

Web content

If you find the world of the theatre as haunting and fascinating as I do, you might enjoy the channel Wait in the Wings, which covers the (often tangled) production histories of iconic musicals. I found this history of the Carrie musical particularly wild. It’s got everything: special effects chaos, the ideological battle between True Theatre and the emerging trope of the Mega-Musical, and people running off with each other’s money (and yet, a strangely happy ending…).

The desire to document a cat’s cuddly shenanigans is something innate to humanity. Xiran Jay Zhao takes a quick tour through the cat chronicles of poet Lu You, and it is adorable and relatable.

Books by Trans and Nonbinary Authors Coming Out in 2022 – a still-updating list of forthcoming releases. Some exciting stuff on the radar!

Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Fiction: January – June 2022: Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade – the devil works hard, but Dahlia Adler and the LGBTQ Reads team work harder. Here is a glorious compendium of future queer releases (if you don’t follow them already, LGBTQ Reads is great: truly an invaluable resource if you’re keeping an eye on queer publishing!)

Animanga as Therapy: Komi-san, Sweat and Soap, and Anxiety – a love letter to these series’ caring depictions of their anxious characters, who are never belittled by the comedic framing—in fact, they’re uplifted by it.

Daring to Speak Its Name: Goodbye, My Rose Garden and the Queer Historical Romance – in a thoroughly researched, eloquently written, and generally fantastic article, Dee explores the historical and literary context that informs the yuri Goodbye, My Rose Garden and how the series draws from history but also imagines a brighter future for its wlw characters.

More Than Tragedy: Decentring Transphobic Violence in Trans YA Fiction – Michael Gray Bulla explores the trope of the “Trans Hero’s Journey” and the “Cis Hero’s Journey” and how both models of coming-of-age stories inevitably involve their trans characters (whether main character or love interest) suffering in order to give their cisgender co-stars something to think about.

A Double-Edged Sword: Reconsidering Moe Through a Neurodiverse Lens – it’s often thought that “moeblob” characters are designed to appeal to a protective, affectionate male market, and thus must be unrealistic and unrelatable to real women’s experiences. As Marina Garrow explores, however, feminist critique of these “useless” “airheaded” or otherwise “helpless” girl characters often overlooks their potential resonance with a neurodiverse audience, and risks falling into ableist ideas along the way.

And our final song for 2021: something of an anthem for the year, I reckon.

That’s all for now—see you in a few days for anime premieres!


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Thanks For the Animes, Even If They Weren’t So Great: October ’21 Roundup

Good morning to you all on this Halloween day, at the end of a month that’s been as exciting and harrowing as a haunted house. It’s a busy time of year and I’m wearing a lot of different professional hats, switching rapidly between them. A valuable lesson I’ll impart onto anyone who’s listening is that sometimes you just need to take an afternoon nap. Seriously, it will work wonders. Cats have the right idea!

On AniFem

Waccha PriMagi! – Episode 1 – a candy-coloured magical girl adventure based on a rhythm game

Mieruko-chan – Episode 1 – a disquieting horror-comedy sprinkled with fan service that only adds to the uncanniness

Banished From the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside – Episode 1 – a clunky fantasy based around, well, exactly what the title tells you!

PuraOre! ~Pride of Orange~ Episode 1 – a show earnestly trying to be a sports anime, idol anime, and a slice-of-life hobby anime all at once, and not really succeeding

The Faraway Paladin – Episode 1 – a slow and character-focused fantasy premiere about a boy and his monster family

Anime Feminist Recommendations of Summer 2021 – there wasn’t much to spotlight (especially since Aquatope isn’t yet finished) but there were a few gems worth your time. Read my rec for the extremely charming Love Live! Superstar!! and the rest of the team’s thoughts!

Bonus book chats: read me trying to pick apart the gay space-magic puzzle box that is Harrow the Ninth in real time!

Web entertainment

Dear Evan Hansen wants to tell a meaningful story about mental health (supposedly) but does so in such a clumsy way that it becomes ethically reprehensible as well as generally badly-written. A deep dive into where this falls as a movie and as an adaptation of a musical! Hooray!

Long before our current era of live-action adaptations of animated works, there was Scooby Doo—a movie that worked surprisingly well, hinging on a few key factors that this essayist lays out.

A heartfelt but baffled retrospective on Love Never Dies, stage show sequel to Phantom of the Opera (I went to see that Melbourne 2011 show, did you know? Stuff’s good).

All Murder, No Sex: Why “Upper YA” Does Not Equal “Sexy YA” – the “age appropriateness” of a book is often determined by its level of sexual content, meaning that a book with one queer makeout session may rate higher than a book with several gory murder scenes. Finn Longman explores the oxymorons of this from both an ace perspective and a writer’s perspective.

Midnight Mass: Spoiler, the Church is the Real Monster – an eloquent review of the new Netflix horror series, with particular focus on how its storytelling condemns the predatory nature of Catholic institutions while also strongly understanding faith.

Mieruko-chan Episodes 1 – 3 – I always enjoy Steve’s episodic breakdowns, and this review captures the eerie appeal of the series and its genre riffs.

Thread: a group of famous YA authors started (and promptly dropped) a project combining NFTs and crowd-sourced writing. It sounds as ridiculous as you’d expect and this sums it up well:

This month’s head-stuck song is Montaigne’s anthem for beleaguered fantasy heroes everywhere.

And that’s all they wrote. See you in a few days when regular posting resumes!

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Beast Mode: September ’21 Roundup

"I don't believe it" Kyubey falling through space

Wow, I’m everywhere this month! Look at all these headings!

On the blog

The Half of It: Love Letters, Plato, and the Myth of “Your Other Half” – in which I (finally, this poor post kept getting pushed back for more timely topics!) spill my feelings about this queer coming-of-age story.

Affection That Devours: Beastars and Relationships – in which I attempt to wrangle the themes in Beastars season two and come up with something about (un)healthy intimacy.

Queer YA Spotlight: The Mirror Season – in which I encourage you (content warnings taken into account) to pick up this beautiful story about magic and trauma.

On The Conversation

Iggy & Ace: A Zany Aussie Comedy About Two Gay Best Friends – and Alcohol Abuse – in which The Convo invites me (!) to review a new indie tragicomedy about a pair of queer friends and their addiction issues.

On AniFem

Pulla Magi Madoka Magica Rewatchalong Part Three – to round off our retrospective trilogy, we return to the scene of the crime… Rebellion Story.

On Otaku Tribune

Genre and Gender in Wonder Egg Priority – no, I have not run out of words about this show. These ones are about the series’ weird genre shift from fantasy to sci-fi, and how that coincides and interlinks directly with its weird shift in narrative focus away from the girls and towards the adult men.

Bonus book chats: Ciara Smyth makes me laugh AND wrecks my shop (again) with Not My Problem, a self-styled (and authentically irritating) “romance expert” gets up to shenanigans in Meet Cute Diary, we attack and dethrone some gods in Alexandra Bracken’s Lore, and get in the robot in the surprisingly fantastic Gearbreakers.

Web reading

An analysis of The Sad Walrus Show, and what it gets so right about melancholy and mental health (and where it might come off more nuanced than its American “adult anthro animals” counterparts like, say, BoJack Horseman)

I’m always here for deep dives into what the hell is going on with Riverdale, and this is one with a more positive take: Riverdale is written like wrestling, and by that metric Riverdale is a fantastic phantasmagoria.

We all had fun poking and peering at the Met Gala costumes, but what’s it like behind the scenes? Eugene Lee Yang, who attended for the first time this year—invited just a week in advance!—gives us a look behind the curtain as well as a celebration of what’s truly important about the event in terms of art, history, and visibility for marginalised creators.

Chimeric Visions: Television’s Renewed Obsession with Human-Animal Hybrids – Lauren Collee looks to new shows like Sweet Tooth and Sexy Beasts and sees a pretty domesticated version of ancient fears and fascinations about what makes us “human” rather than “animalistic”.

The Troubled Golden Age of Trans Literature – more books by trans authors are hitting shelves and milestones, but publishing still has its traditional hang-ups, and many writers are calling for more nuanced conversation surrounding their books and the current market.

Fallout 4 Has Aged Like a Ghoul – during lockdown, my partner booted the ol’ post-apocalyptic Bethesda game back up and found a very lacklustre experience waiting for them. Steven Strom’s article (reposted at just the right time) hits the nail on the head as to why the RPG feels so shallow and has so little longevity, especially compared to others in its franchise.

Gearing Up or Dressing Up? On Female Fighter Equipment – Raven Wu looks at the character design trends of chainmail bikinis and battle high heels, and why critiquing these elements is more than just “nitpicking”.

Wonder Egg Priority is Impossible – a fantastic musing on my favourite and most fascinating disasterpiece of the year, poetically put by Adam Wescott.

Drunk Book Club: Wings – Vrai and Dorothy get tipsy and tackle a YA faerie tale straight outta the Twilight era.

The song stuck in my head this month is… Lil Nas X. Of course it is.

It’s premiere reviews again in October, so look forward to those! Take care, everyone.

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Imagine an Egg: August ’21 Roundup

Life continues to Happen. There are a lot of really cool links below and I’m about ready to fall asleep, so I won’t preamble for too long! There are eggs to scramble!

On the blog

Rotten Eggs and Adult Agendas: How Girlhood is Constructed in Wonder Egg Priority – I take a look at this series’ scrambled finale with my kidlit studies hat on, examining how the construction of characters like Frill and Koito reveal the bias of the adults behind this story about adolescence.

Queer YA Spotlight: This Poison Heart – reimagined myths, spooky secret gardens, and the most delightful queer family I’ve ever read reign supreme in this fun contemporary fantasy.

On AniFem

Convenient Monsters: The Problem with Frill and Wonder Egg Priority‘s Take on Trauma – not satisfied with just analysing Koito, I give the series’ other maligned female character, Frill, a post of her own. Specifically, this one looks at how inventing and then maligning Frill screws with some significant thematic threads.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Rewatchalong Part One and Part Two – join me, Mercedez, and Vrai for the Miki Sayaka Feelings Hour!

Summer 2021 Three-Episode Check-in – not a season overstuffed with favourites, but I can see some recommendations shaping up!

The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated! – Episode 1 – a zany reverse isekai comedy that mostly made me want to rewatch The Devil is a Part-Timer.

Fena: Pirate Princess – Episode 1 – swashbuckling shenanigans with a heroine who hopefully needs to be rescued less and less as the story progresses.

Academia – but on YouTube!

In July, I presented at two different virtual conferences, and have made these short presentations available for anyone that might find them useful or interesting! (Or anyone who just wants to check out my cool glasses)

How might the liminal, mischievous, underdog figure of the Trickster lend itself to stories about queer teens? (Presented in Canada, but from right in front of my bookshelf!)

Join my colleague Chloe and I for a brief introduction to the world of queer young adult fiction, from its historic beginnings in the 1960s all the way through to the new directions it’s taking now!

Around the web

A brief and energetic introduction to the all-women Takarazuka theatre tradition, which Kageki Shojo!! is drawing heavy inspiration from.

Modern costume dramas will often make their female leads derisive of feminine dress and activities as a shorthand for them being “feminist” by 21st century standards, despite the fact this actually runs counter to what feminist activists of the era were doing.

Anime and the Apocalypse: Finding Catharsis at the End of Everything – Lynzee Loveridge muses about the opposite of “escapism” in art, and the value in those big “thank god it’s over” moments after everything crumbles to ruin.

The Late Stage (or Lock Down) Loopy La-las – the Thesis Whisperer examines the very scientific concept of “the loopy la-las” and the way your brain can melt when deep in academic work. I reckon they’re onto something, and may start using that phrasing.

Now What? ; the Mystery of Odd Taxi – this drama is full of crime and thrills, but what it’s really about is people.

Kissing Mannequins: Watching The Bold and the Beautiful During a Pandemic – did you know they used mannequins and body doubles so they could continue filming never-ending soap opera shenanigans? Romance scholar Jodi McAlister provides a window into this weird and wonderful world, and how it’s helped her stay sane over the past year.

Beyond the School Cathedral: How Yuri Grew Up – Nicki “YuriMother” Bauman charts the genre’s recent expansion beyond the tropes and trappings of schoolgirl yuri into a market increasingly full of romances between adults.

We Are the Mountain: A Look at the “Inactive” Protagonist – Vida Cruz examines the way “agency” is often conflated with mobility and action, particularly in sci-fi and fantasy, and how surviving and coping with a world that Others you is an acceptable form of character strength even if it’s commonly dismissed.

Having Trauma Doesn’t Mean You Can Only Consume Mild, Boneless Art – for some, it’s tempting to argue that works with triggering content should simply not exist, lest they re-traumatise people. But these conversations remove a lot of the nuance around trauma and the way people interact with art.

This month’s song comes with a (warped, satirical laugh) track!

And that’s it for now. Goodnight, sweet dreams.

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